The role of Councillors
The work of councillors is guided by the framework set out in the White Paper on Local Government (199 that proposes a developmental model of local government. Developmental local government espouses the philosophy of sustainable ways to meet the socio-economic needs of residents and improve the quality of life, particularly targeting the most marginalised and poorest members of society.
There are two broad categories of councillors: ward councillors and PR councillors. The PR councillor is elected through the Party lists and is primarily accountable to the party.
The PR Councillor may interact with local and provincial party structures and may sometimes serve as a substitute chairperson on Ward Committees in cases where Ward Councillors cannot be present. PR Councillors are also allocated to wards to improve their
accountability to communities
Ward Councillors on the other hand, are expected to make sure that the concerns related to the wards they serve in, and are chairpersons of, are represented in Council. Apart from the articulation of residents’ needs in council, Ward Councillors are responsible for:
giving ward residents a progress report, explaining the decisions of the council in committing resources to development projects and programmes affecting them;
assessing whether the municipalities’ programmes and plans are having their intended impact;
assessing whether services are being delivered fairly, effectively and in a sustainable way;
determining whether capital projects are being committed in accordance with the IPD Plan;
staying in close contact with their constituencies to ensure that council is informed of all issues on the ground and
conveying important information from council to residents
Councillors therefore serve as the interface between the citizens they represent and the municipal officials who design and implement development polices.
The councillor’s job is not just to serve as the voice of the people, for the expression of their community needs, but also to act as a watchdog and ensure the municipality implements policies to address the needs of citizens. The Ward Councillor as chairperson of his or her ward must also raise concerns to council on behalf of ward members when residents experience problems relating to the financial management of a council. Councillors are also required to make recommendations to municipalities for the improvement of policies and programmes within the broad framework of developmental local government.